A Hoopeston Area High School graduate was recently named director of TEDxWabashCollege.
Daniel Bass now serves as director of the TEDxWabashCollege organization at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Ind.
Bass said the organization started in 2015 as a small group but has steadily grown over the years.
He said the group is globally licensed through TED which allows them to host various events from around the country and work with people around the world.
Through the program Bass said he was able to train with TED organizers from six different continents over the summer.
Bass started off his time with the group as a volunteer during his freshman year at Wabash College.
Bass had been heavily involved with the FFA during his time at Hoopeston Area High School and was looking for something to dedicate his time to at Wabash College.
Bass worked his way up to the sponsorship team last year and enjoyed it enough that he started working more with other group organizers and the group director.
When the former director graduated earlier this year, Bass was promoted to take his place as director.
Bass said the TEDxWabashCollege group is split into five different teams: sponsorship, marketing, logistics, curation and treasury.
As director, Bass oversees these departments and estimates that they have about 30 people involved in the group.
The curation team recruits potential guests to speak at the college.
Bass said the team has about 12 speakers representing various different fields of expertise lined up to speak at the college.
The group spends the year setting up these speaking engagements and ensuring that everything is licensed properly through TED.
“I work a lot with speakers, I work with all five departments and then I work with TED pretty closely,” Bass said of his responsibilities as director.
In his role as director, Bass said he’s worked on adjusting the structure of how the group handles their work.
He said he’s focused on breaking the departments into specialized teams to handle different elements of their responsibilities.
“I believe that if you are able to focus on one thing, you’re going to excel in that,” he said.
Bass said he wasn’t looking to make too many other changes as director, but did say he wanted to focus on ensuring the mental health of those who are working with him.
“The one thing I try to tell everyone who works with me is that if they aren’t able to meet a deadline there’s not going to be any repercussions,” he said. “Asking for help is the most important thing you can do.”
Bass said family, education and your own personal mental health and happiness are the most important things.
Bass feels he learned the importance of focusing on mental health during his time as leader in the FFA.
He also learned the importance of showing appreciation to team members.
“That’s something I learned from FFA, make sure people know that they’re appreciated and that their work is valued,” he said.
Bass said he wants Hoopeston Area High School students to know that is that they should be afraid to be ordinary.
“The one thing that I want other students to realize is that as long as you’re afraid to be ordinary, if you have that passion and drive, you can do whatever you want in life,” he said.
Bass said he is living proof of this.
“I am from Hoopeston, Ill., a population of 5,000, a high school of 300, and I head one of the top TEDx programs in the state of Indiana and probably the U.S.,” he said. “As long as you’re afraid to be ordinary, you can do whatever you set your mind to.”
Asked if there were any speakers that really stood out to him from the TED talks he’s been a part of, Bass said all of the talks have been great but singled out two that really stuck with him.
One of these was presented by Jordan Syatt, a fitness instructor.
Bass said he is a huge fitness fanatic, so having the chance to hear his talk.
“His talk is about how you can actually eat whatever food you want as long as you’re reasonable with it,” he said. “You don’t have to starve yourself, you don’t have to do all these crazy fad diets to lose weight. You just have to be sensible with it.”
Bass said he appreciated the talk because it focused on how important the mental mindset was to fitness.
Another talk that stood out for Bass was Matt Gagnon, a CEO and podcaster from Salt Lake City.
Bass said Gagnon’s talk focused on overcoming Adderall addiction and Red Bull addiction.
He said Gagnon was drinking about 20 sugar-free Red Bulls a day and taking about 100 milligrams of Adderall a day.
Bass said Gagnon’s life was spiraling out of control until one day he realized this wasn’t the path in life he wanted to take and took steps to get on the right track.
Bass said he worked closely with both men while curating their events, so he said he’s probably a little biased, but both stories stuck with him.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bass said TEDxWabash College speakers would always come to the college to speak in-person with around 300 guests in attendance.
Bass said the speakers present in the same fashion as at the TED conference with presenters standing on a red dot with a black background.
While speakers are still going to be at the college, changes were made this year due to the pandemic.
Bass said TEDxWabash College has been working closely with the Indiana Department of Health and Montgomery County Department of Health as well as Wabash College’s Care Team to see if they could possible get guests in attendance at the presentations.
If they can’t have guests, Bass said they will still have the speakers come to campus and record their presentation then provide a staggered release of the video of the presentation.
He said the goal would be to record the presentations, broadcast them and then have the speakers remain on-stage and have a live Q&A with the audience.
Bass said if they are able to have guests, likely a much lower number of them than usual, the presentations would broadcast via YouTube like normal.
During normal times, Bass said, speakers would generally present for 8-15 minutes and there wouldn’t be much interaction between the audience and the speaker.
“It’s kind of one of those talks that allows your imagination to keep wandering and then you’re kind of responsible for doing the research into it,” he said.
Asked why he feels these TED talks are important to offer on college campuses, Bass said one of the biggest things he’s starting to see a lot now is a reluctance to bring up conversations that are somewhat controversial.
While TED talks must follow guidelines in terms of not promoting businesses or have an overt political bias, Bass said these presentations enable people to have these frank and even taboo conversations.
“I think a lot of people are afraid to have those conversations because they’re either afraid to lose a friendship or it’s just too scary for them,” he said. “I think it’s important we continue those conversations because that’s how we grow as individuals. You’ll never learn what the other person is thinking if you don’t ask them.”
Bass said one of the presentations he listened to a few years ago dealt with political polarization in society and that polarization is why he feels these open conversations need to be had.
“Our world needs to be able to have those conversations because we are so polarized and we need to find a way to work together,” he said. “I think TED talks are a great way to bond over that and it’s a way to have those conversations you normally wouldn’t.”
To learn more about the TEDxWabashCollege program, visit www.tedxwabashcollege.com.